Experienced healthcare manager, educator named director of WC’s newest bachelor’s degree program
Weatherford College’s third bachelor’s degree launches this fall semester under the direction of Dr. Stephen Duarte, one of the newest faces on campus.
The Bachelor of Applied Technology in Medical and Health Services Management is designed for those who already have an Associate of Applied Science Degree in a health science program like radiologic technology, respiratory care, occupational therapy assistant, physical therapy assistant or substance abuse counseling/human service provider.
Students will build on their existing healthcare education to learn the management side of their field.
“For example, a physical therapy assistant might want to open a clinic, or a respiratory therapist might want to become a department head,” said Kathy Boswell, dean of health and human science. “This degree will prepare them to be managers and leaders of departments who understand health care statistics, medical insurance, medical law and many other aspects unique to healthcare management.”
Duarte comes to WC with 34 years of healthcare experience in both medical device and healthcare administration.
“In the early days I did what I considered a professional tour of duty,” Duarte said. “I was working for a medical device company doing international product development. And one day, I was flying over the Atlantic Ocean traveling to Germany, and I thought ‘There’s got to be a different career.’”
After travelling 200,000 miles a year, Duarte was eager to store his passport for a while. He returned to the University of La Verne in 2005 to earn his Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership degree. He previously earned his master’s degree in healthcare administration in 1995, also from ULA.
He holds a Harvard Business School Certification in Healthcare Case Study Teaching Methodology, a Stanford Executive Certification in Organization and Strategy and has 14 years of academic experience in California.
“My education in health administration gave me a wonderful career,” Duarte said. “It's cool to see it come full-circle, and now I can take what I learned over the 30-some-odd years and give it to students so they can go find their career.”
And being able to offer that opportunity at WC makes it even sweeter since he also started his academic journey at a community college.
He’s also excited about helping at an institution where students from more rural areas are given an opportunity to complete a program that allows them the choice to stay close with their career or go far by taking a job anywhere around the country.
“I've already talked to a few students who talk about coming from a small town,” he said. “And so, my first question is, ‘Where do you want to be?’ There are a lot of things you could do in your small town. I mean, there are huge health disparities [depending on where you live].
“This degree is no different than what students earn at Baylor, Texas State or the University of Texas. That’s exciting to me. They can stay in their hometown, and they can look at opportunities here, but they also have this national door busted wide open.”
Duarte is projecting his first cohort to consist of 12 to 15 students who will move through the program together. Curriculum will be taught in a hybrid format with a balance of in-person and online classes.
“Healthcare is complex, so online can have its challenges,” Duarte said. “The best way to educate and move your students along is to know who they are, where they want to go and get them out in the community to make connections.”
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the median salary for individuals in the medical and health services management field to be $101,340. And while the rate of employment for all jobs is expected to increase 8 percent from 2020 to 2030, this field is projected to see a 32 percent increase with a need for 139,600 more employees nationwide.
Duarte’s education and experience in a high demand field are part of why he was able to pack up his life in California and moved to Weatherford without visiting the campus or even knowing where his house was being built.
“Moving to Texas was not in the plan,” he said. “But one day I decided to explore what opportunities existed in my field. Weatherford caught my eye for two reasons. First, it was a new program that needed to be built from the ground up. Second, it was a community college offering a bachelor’s degree; I was intrigued by both.
“Not to mention, the Cal State campus was 70 miles from my house down one of the busiest freeways in southern California. It would literally take me anywhere from two and a half to four hours to get home on some days.”
The posting at WC popped up in one of his searches and he said he took a chance and the next thing he knew he was on his way to becoming the director of WC’s newest bachelor’s degree program.
“I’m loving it,” he said. “My vision for the program aligns perfectly with what WC is trying to accomplish. The overall WC philosophy of putting the student first and helping them be successful in their chosen field is exactly what I intend to do. This is an exciting time at WC.”
Learn more about this new program at https://wc.edu/programs/all-programs/bat_mhsm/index.php or email email@example.com.